Monthly Archives: April 2012

Amphion Loudspeakers is a Finland based audio product company. Their loudspeaker designs take a 3-in-1 approach, including what they claim to be: perfect nearfield performance; wide and even listening area and; multiroom-filing live-like sound.

Amphion has reportedly developed a new Ion speaker product, the Ion+ speaker. The Ion+ is a 2-way bookshelf monitor that has a rated frequency response of 52 – 25.000 Hz, a 1,600 Hz crossover point and a 86dB/1w/1m sensitivity. The driver complement is comprised of a 1” titanium dome tweeter matched to a 4.5” aluminum cone mid-low frequency driver. This new Ion+ is said to combine the sonic attributes of both neutrality and musicality.

The Ion+ is quite compact with dimensions of 268 x 134 x 220mm and a respectable weight of 6kg. The new Ion+ will be available in black or white finish. At present, only the European pricing is currently available, which is €999 / pair.

Look for more details to be provided at: www.amphion.fi.

Japanese broadcaster NHK has been working with Panasonic to develop a 145-inch 8K plasma TV display, which has just been unveiled as an example of the kind of displays being worked on for the future. This is the world’s first self-illuminating Super Hi-Vision TV. It provides a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 / 8K.

Larger plasma displays typically have flickering issues at high resolutions, prompting NHK and Panasonic to work out a solution claimed to be flicker-free. NHK and Panasonic, with this prototype, have come up with a new drive method that scans pixels vertically to achieve a uniform picture quality.

According to the specs, the prototype measures 145-inches, or 1.8m (L) x 3.2m (H). The actual resolution is 7,680 x 4,320 while the frame rate resides at a solid at 60 FPS. The pixel pitch is 0.417-mm horizontal, 0.417-mm vertical, the aspect ratio is 16:9 and the phosphor array is a RGB vertical stripe.

Panasonic has stated that the new 145-inch Super Hi-Vision TV will make an appearance at the Institute of Technology from May 24 to May 27, and at the SID International Symposium international conference from June 3 to June 8.

Look for details on Panasonic products at: www.panasonic.ca

In the beginning, there was only live music. By 1877 Thomas Edison recorded a vocal rendition of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on his phonograph and in time came analogue recordings on vinyl and tape. Today, we live in a digital world and though the last few years have shown a small resurgence of music on vinyl, digital formats are by far the dominant method for music storage and playback. In fact, digital music file downloads have far surpassed sales of any physical music medium, spawning a plethora of digital file formats and audio products, which continue to evolve rapidly.

For me and many other audio enthusiasts, there seems to be a greater understanding and comfort with optical-disc based music media such as CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray Audio etc.; they just seem to be…well…more physical, less techy and less frequent to change. However it’s hard to ignore the benefits associated with a non-disc based digital music system. With the right components in place, a digital music playback system is capable of true high-fidelity sound, allows access to your entire music library without ever looking for or changing a disc and lets you add new albums or songs to your library in just seconds, by purchasing them online. Combine these benefits with a sleek colour, touch screen remote or an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch and you’ll end up with a modern digital music system.

Before we can start considering the different digital music playback alternatives, we need to begin by understanding a little about the more prevalent digital music formats that currently exist.

Digital Music Formats
The lion’s share of digital music is in the form of PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) or LPCM (Linear PCM) audio data; however, to make labelling, cataloguing and basic organization of PCM data possible, file formats were created. Formats are like digital containers for the music data, they provide form around the raw PCM music data. Today, many formats have been created but there are three main types: uncompressed, lossless compressed and lossy compressed.

Uncompressed
Uncompressed PCM is bit-for-bit identical to the originally created digital music file. The two most popular formats are AIFF (AIF) and WAV. AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) was developed by Apple. WAV (Waveform Audio File Format) was developed by Microsoft. Both AIF and WAV formats can contain metadata (album art, artist, song, etc.), though few software applications can retain metadata associated with the WAV format. During playback, the playback software opens the AIF / WAV container and accesses the PCM music data and metadata.

Lossless Compressed
Lossless music files use a format container and a compression algorithm program that is referred to as a codec. The codec serves to compress the PCM data by only removing redundant and predictable data. Popular lossless formats / codecs include ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and WMA (Windows Media Audio) Lossless. For all intensive purposes, lossless formats maintain both the integrity, and quality of the original uncompressed file. Lossless is a hi-fidelity format.

Lossy Compressed
Lossy music also involves a format container and codec but in this case, the compression involves a removal of some of the actual PCM music data and its permanent loss. The data removed from the file is substantial with the end result being a significantly smaller data file, while maintaining a level of quality intended to satisfy the average listener. Popular lossy formats include: AAC, WMA lossy and MP3. No lossy format would or should be considered a hi-fidelity format.

With the various formats covered, we can now dive into some other aspects of digital music, namely sample rates, bits and bytes.

Sample Rates, Bits & Bytes

Sample Rates
Sound-waves are a continuous analogue wave. On the other hand, a digital sound recording is comprised of a set of digital data points. These data points are the result of a process known as sampling that involves taking rapid, successive; however, non-continuous measurements of the original analogue sound-wave. The end result is a digital facsimile of the original analogue sound-wave. Sampling is measured in cycles-per-second or Hertz (Hz) or kilo-Hertz (kHz) with the most common sampling rates being 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 96 kHz and 192 kHz. The CD format conforms to a 44.1 kHz sampling rate. All things held equal, the higher the sampling rate, the closer the data points lie and the greater the likeness to the original analogue sound-wave.

Bits & Bytes
A bit is a binary digit and eight bits make a byte. Bit rate is a measure of digital data transmission and is typically expressed in bits-per-second (bps) or bytes-per-second (Bps). The higher this rate, the higher the data transfer. You can think of a bit as only a little bit of a byte (1/8th). Digital music files can also have stated bit lengths, which are usually multiples of 8 – for example16-bit or 24-bit. The higher the bit length, the better.

The resolution of uncompressed and compressed lossless music files is generally quoted as: bit length (in bits) / sampling rate. For example, the CD standard would be: 16-bit / 44.1 kHz. This could be translated into a bit rate of: 16 X 2 (2ch stereo) x 44,100 Hz (cycles-per-second) = 1,411,200 bps or 1,411.2 kbps. Notice, the CD bit rate is 4.4 times greater than the highest possible MP3 lossy bit rate of 320kbps, clearly illustrating the fact that MP3 is not a hi-fidelity format. On the other side, it’s worth noting that hi-resolution (hi-res) files are those with a greater resolution than the CD standard of 16-bit / 44.1 kHz.
When downloading music, using sites such as iTunes, Napster, HD Tracks or iTrax or when ripping CDs to your music collection, to make hi-fidelity possible you want to ensure your download or rip is uncompressed or lossless. If you must compromise with lossy, then wherever possible, choose the highest bit rate, like 320 kbps, to get better sound quality.

Digital File Playback

Portable Music Player or an iPhone/iPod
Playing digital music through your stereo can be as simple as connecting a portable music player, such as an iPhone/iPod, to your stereo system – typically to the receiver, pre-amplifier or integrated amplifier. You can use the player’s headphone jack with a Y-adapter cable that has a headphone plug on one end and a stereo pair of RCA plugs on the other. The digital music files and the playback interface reside on the portable music player, so playing music is as simple as hitting the ‘play’ button on your player. However, sound quality will be poor, since in this case we are relying on the portable player’s internal digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) which is of very poor quality. Plus storage capacity is limited to that of the portable device – not good especially when it comes to higher quality lossless music files that are of considerable size.

A way to get better performance is to tap into the digital output of the portable player and connect it to your stereo via a digital Toslink or SPDIF coaxial connection. A step up is to use an external DAC between the portable music player and your stereo system. However, not many portable players have a digital output. This is where docking stations that can access the digital output of an iPhone/iPod can provide a solution. Such docking stations convert the digital output from the iPhone/iPod into a Toslink optical or SPDIF coaxial digital output that can then be connected to your stereo system or an external DAC. Examples of such docking stations for the iPhone/iPod are the Wadia 171i Transport or Cambridge Audio iD100 Digital Dock. Using this latter method, performance would only be limited by the music file quality and the DAC. Get this right and you’ll have a hi-fi and hi-rez capable system. Another similar option is to use your iPhone/iPod with an integrated amplifier that has a built in docking station that accesses the device’s digital output, such as the Peachtree iNova Amplifier. Some audio/video receivers also have a USB input compatible with the iPhone/iPod such as the Onkyo TX-NR818. The main drawbacks of this are the portable devices’ limited storage capabilities and user interface.

Computer or Laptop
Your computer or laptop (PC/Mac) can be easily used as a digital music player. As with the portable music player, a headphone output could be used but with the same limitations mentioned above. Again, the better method is to use a digital output (Toslink or SPDIF) on the computer’s soundcard to connect to the stereo system or a separate DAC. Not all soundcards have a digital output, so you could replace the soundcard or use the computer’s USB output with a USB-capable DAC (such as the Alpha Design Labs GT-40) or an integrated amplifier which offers a USB input (like the Magnum Dynalab MD 309). Be sure to investigate the USB connection capabilities such as the sample/bit rate, as they tend to vary between components. A computer provides the convenience of music storage on its hard drive and allows easy playback of digital files with software such as iTunes, Songbird, Foobar2000 or Windows Media Player. Quality is limited by the type of connection, the DAC and the quality of the music file. The main drawback of using a computer or laptop for music playback is finding a place for it near the stereo – and noisy computer fans don’t help.

Media Receivers or Streamers
A more flexible option is to transmit the digital music stored on your computer or even a compatible Network Attached Storage (NAS) hard drive to your stereo system via your home network. To use this option you will need a device that connects to your stereo system and can access your home network; such devices are usually called media receivers or streamers. Media receivers connect to your network (wirelessly or via Ethernet cable) and can stream music files from your computer or NAS hard drive via a network connection. These devices are connected to your stereo via either a standard stereo RCA cable connection or via a digital cable (Toslink / SPDIF). For the digital connection, as discussed earlier, you would need a digital input on your stereo system or an external DAC. In some cases, software may need to be loaded onto your computer to use the media receiver. Three such devices are the Logitech Squeezebox Touch, the Apple TV and the Sonos Connect with Bridge. Media servers will have different features, capabilities, compatibilities and performance parameters. For instance, the Logitech Squeezebox can handle all popular file types and resolutions but will only output to a maximum resolution of 24-bit/96 kHz, while the Apple TV can’t handle FLAC formatted files and is restricted to a maximum output resolution of 16-bit/44.1 kHz. In terms of control interfaces, the Squeezebox has its own built-in touch screen but the Apple TV and the Sonos will need to be controlled with a laptop or an iPhone/iPod/iPad. In a number of cases you can use your own library software such as iTunes. There also exist some non-essential but helpful technologies and protocols that can make compatibility and connections simpler, examples being DLNA and Apple AirPlay but we won’t get into these in this article. We also need to note that some media receivers, often termed as full-function or all-in-one, may provide a number of other features such as on-board storage, CD drives for playback and ripping, internet radio tuners and in some cases integrated amplifiers like in the case of the Naim Uniti and UnitiQute.

Media Players
Media players are essentially a media receiver without the ability to connect to a network and stream digital files from remote storage devices. Media players either have integrated storage or require plug-in storage, such as a portable hard drive or USB flash memory drive. Media players have potentially less issues with data transmission and may offer more consistent and higher performance. Along with some specialized and dedicated media players, some audio-video receivers also fit into this category, where they have USB inputs that can browse the contents of a connected USB hard drive or thumb drive. A couple examples of media players are the Bryston BDP-1 digital player or the Marantz SR7005 AVR.

Is this everything there is to know about digital music playback? Hardly, but these are the key fundamentals. Hopefully, with this information you can be better equipped to explore digital music solutions further. If after reading this article, you at least thought, “…oh, there’s more to digital music than MP3…” then I’ll consider my job done. Look out for other articles on this topic as we continue to explore the digital audio realm in future issues of CANADA HiFi. In the meantime, happy listening!

Part 2 of this article can be found here: Bits & Bytes – Digital Music Demystified. An Introduction to Digital Music Playback

Gato Audio has just announced that their CDD-1 CD player and D/A converter has now been delivered to their distributors and dealers. Gato Audio will be present at the High End Audio Show in Munich, Germany from 3-6th of May 2012.

The CDD-1 allows direct connection of other source player devices through its asynchronous USB and coaxial S/PDIF digital inputs that accept up to 24bits/192kHz. High definition music from digital streaming devices, computers or even directly from an iPad can benefit from the D/A converter and analogue section of the CDD-1.

An ultra low jitter clock signal feeds the sample rate converter and the dual mono, dual differential coupled Burr brown PCM1794 DACs. Carefully selected I/V converters and analogue output stage – both optimized in hundreds of hours of listening and adjusting – ensures a clean, musical and spotless reproduction of the delicate signals.

Within the CDD-1, solid custom high-grade alloy profiles form the important non-resonant base of the spinning action and the delicate digital and analogue electrical circuits. The power supply, mechanism and the digital/analogue PCB’s have all been physically separated to ensure optimal working conditions for each section.

The CDD-1 up-samples all lower specified digital inputs to 24-bit/192kHz with the objective of providing a natural sound. The electrical design is fully dual differential. This means that each channel has its own separate power supply, separate D/A converters and separate analogue stage working symmetrically around a common ground plane. This ensures that noise levels are extremely low and the dynamic range is extremely high.

The CDD-1 offers a unique selection of inputs and outputs. A pair of true balanced analogue outputs together with a pair of unbalanced RCA outputs. For your digital inputs, you can enjoy the freedom of choice between a USB (type B) and a coaxial SPDIF RCA connector. This digital connector option uses the supremely competent sample rate converter and digital-to-analogue converters.

Pricing is yet to be announced. Look for more details at: www.gato-audio.com.

 Denon Electronics has just announced the availability of their new DHT-1513BA Home Theater System, which is purported to be a powerful yet compact solution that combines an advanced Denon A/V receiver and amplifier with six acoustically matched Boston Acoustics loudspeakers.  

Denon’s DHT-1513BA system features a slimmer, vibration-resistant chassis design twenty percent smaller than previous Denon home theater systems, making it ideal for easy installation in virtually any room. DHT-1513BA offers simple and intuitive ways to incorporate more personal audio/video content from smartphones, digital cameras, via easily accessible front-panel HDMI input.

The powerful DHT-1513BA system utilizes a set of four Boston Acoustics satellite speakers, one center-channel speaker, and one down-firing subwoofer, all optimized for use with one another, lending to a larger and more defined soundstage.  

The DHT-1513BA’s built-in receiver is outfitted with several audio technologies to ensure an immersive surround sound experience. With equal power amp design, each of the receiver’s five channels is powered by its own discrete circuitry. This allows the receiver to reproduce original sounds more faithfully than those which use integrated circuits. Additionally, thanks to its four HDMI inputs, the system lets users route multiple high-definition devices, including set-top boxes, game consoles and Blu-ray players, directly to their TV. Users can also connect all of their devices to the display with a single HDMI cable effectively reducing cable clutter.

The Blu-ray player also has the ability to pass through 3D signals to enable users to enjoy today’s emerging 3D video technologies.

For more information on Denon, visit: www.denon.com.

 

Denon Electronics, has just announced their new core line of audio/video receivers (AVRs) for 2012.  This lineup of AVRs includes the 7.1-channel AVR-1913 as well as the 5.1-channel AVR-1713, AVR-1613 and AVR-1513.  

The AVR-1913, AVR-1713 and AVR-1613 feature Apple’s AirPlay, allowing users to customize soundtracks for their home by unleashing their iTunes music libraries through a Mac, PC or an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.  All three receivers also feature iPhone, iPad and iPod touch direct connectivity via USB for quick and simple integration into your home audio system.

The receivers provide an easily accessible front-panel HDMI input for quick and easy connections of camcorders and cameras, the AVR-1913, AVR-1713 and AVR-1613 also each feature a front-panel USB input, allowing users to enjoy digital music from connected devices. All models except the AVR-1513 support AirPlay and are DLNA 1.5 certified.

All new receivers feature an efficient and straightforward short signal path circuit design that ensures optimal audio and video playback by minimizing any signal degradation due to interference.  With the exception of the AVR-1513 all these new receivers feature Audyssey audio technologies.   Audyssey Dynamic Volume offers real-time volume adjustment; while Audyssey DynamicEQ improves a system’s surround sound effects at low volume levels.  Audyssey MultEQ (in the AVR-1613 and AVR-1913 (MultEQXT in the AVR-1713)) automatically sets speakers (including the subwoofer) to suit the room’s listening environment and the speaker’s characteristics.

Key Features:

7.1-Channel AVR-1913:
90W x 7, 6 HDMI Inputs, Analog to HDMI Conversion, 1080P Upscaling, Powered Zone 2

5.1-Channel AVR-1713:
80W x 5, 6 HDMI Inputs, Audyssey MultEQ XT, Zone 2 Preout

5.1-Channel AVR-1613:
75W x 5, 5 HDMI Inputs, Audyssey MultEQ, Setup Assistant, Network Ready, AirPlay, SiriusXM, vTuner Internet Radio, Pandora, DLNA 1.5, Made for iPod USB Input

5.1-Channel AVR-1513:
75W x 5, 4 HDMI Inputs (1 Front), 3D Passthrough, GUI with Overlay, Discrete Amplification”

All receivers a now available at the following MSRPs:
AVR-1913: $579.99 U.S.; AVR-1713: $449.99 U.S.; AVR-1613: $399.99 U.S.; AVR-1513: $249.99 U.S.

Look for more details at: www.ca.denon.com.

When you think of Germany, you may think of marzipan, fine chocolates or perhaps luxury sports automobiles. Yes, all these top-quality products are made in Germany but this list would not be complete without adding hi-end audio products, including loudspeakers. German hi-end audio product companies include such names as Burmester, MBL, Audio Physic and Canton but yet another company worth noting is known simply by a four-letter word… ELAC. Interestingly enough, Elac is not an acronym, as you might mistakenly first assume but rather an abbreviation of the company’s full name, which is Electroacustic.

ELAC is a loudspeaker company based out of Kiel, in northern Germany, with roots going back to 1926 when Dr. Hecht, Gerhard Schmidt, and Dr. Rudolph founded the company. Beginning with underwater sound technology the company eventually moved into turntables and between 1948 and 1981, Elac became a leading producer of turntables. In 1984 Elac began building loudspeakers, which the company has exclusively focused on since it stopped making turntables in 1981 and phono cartridges in 1997. Elac, true to its in-sourcing philosophy, not only designs, manufactures and assembles loudspeakers in-house but many of the component parts right down to magnets for the drivers.

This brings us to the Elac FS 247 loudspeaker ($3,450/pair), the smallest tower design in the 240 Series and the subject of this review. The courier literally dropped the boxes from upright onto their sides before thumping them down in the foyer of my house. Thankfully, upon opening the boxes, I found that they had come away unscathed – kudos to well engineered packaging. Inside of each speaker box were some thoughtful accessories including a set of floor spikes and rubberized floor cups, a pair of white gloves, a blue microfiber polishing cloth and the ELAC Jet Dispersion Control (JET DC), which is a pair of bagel shaped foam rings and mounting clips.

The review set came in ELAC’s black high gloss finish. I was originally looking for a natural wood veneer to satisfy my preference of traditional aesthetics but was sad to find out that Elac had recently ceased production of their wood veneers, leaving only two options – black or white high gloss lacquer. On a happier note, the laquer was very well executed and the FS 247’s build quality was excellent; putting forth a clean and purposeful posterior, reminiscent of a pair of finely groomed, pure-bred Doberman Pinschers. The silver of the tweeter and aluminum faceted twin mid-bass drivers, along with the chromed pedestal legs, against the black gloss of the cabinet, was urbane with a dash of panache. The review pair was flawless, speaking to a high-level of workmanship and quality control. It was obvious that Elac takes pride in the locale of manufacture, as each speaker’s tweeter baffle hosted a prominent sticker of a German flag bearing the caption: “ELAC Made in Germany”.

The FS 247 is a 3-driver, 2.5-way (450 / 2500 Hz crossover points), twin ported bass-reflex tower design with a nominal impendence of 4 ohms. It offers a sensitivity of 89 dB, 30 to 50,000 Hz (IEC 268-5) frequency range and 120 watt continuous / 160 watt peak power rating. The cabinet has an internally braced MDF construction with an upper rear port as well as a lower port that exhausts from the bottom of the cabinet, between the pedestal legs and base. A removable foam rubber bass control plug is installed in each speaker, sealing the rear port for tuned bass. On the mid-back is a twin pair of clear plastic shrouded gold-plated five-way binding posts and shrouded jumpers.

The FS 247 uses Elac proprietary drivers – a single Heil/AMT design JET tweeter and a pair of 150 mm / 5.9 inch Crystal AS-XR mid-bass drivers. The JET tweeter is constructed from a continuous single folded ribbon membrane and coil that allows greater speed and efficiency than conventional dome tweeters. Rather than moving forward and back like a dome tweeter, the ribbon squeezes air out of the folds, in an accordion-like fashion. The unique JET / AMT tweeter design is claimed to produce less distortion and therefore, improved smoothness, transparency, detail and extension. Also noteworthy are the Crystal AS-XR or Crystal Membrane Aluminum Sandwich eXtended Range drivers. These drivers have a distinctive multi-faceted, diamond-like appearance; the stamped form is purported to considerably stiffen the cone and reduce distortion. The cone is actually a sandwich of the aluminum cone and a paper backing, bonded using a “secret” gluing method. The voice coil is joined not only at the neck of the paper cone but also to the bottom of the aluminum cone, which allegedly expands the operational frequency range by almost one full octave.

But enough background, you’re probably wondering what they sound like. Well, I began by hooking them up as L/R channels in my home-theatre setup, which is powered by an Onkyo TX-SR805 receiver. There they were given over 300 hours before I began to critically evaluate them. In my HT setup the FS 247’s brought an impressive level of intelligibility to speech and great clarity to low-level details, producing a lucid cinema experience. I watched broadcast television, DVD, Blu-ray and even streamed movies via Netflix. My first impression was that the FS 247’s were wonderfully detailed and natural sounding, which are great qualities for home theatre applications. It was also nice to discover that they could perform so well powered simply by an AV receiver, though my Onkyo 805 has quite a robust power supply and is 4 ohm capable. This left me wondering what a full ELAC home-theatre setup might bring to the table.

Now, it was time to get serious by plugging these pups into my two channel kit. Mated to my Bryston 4B-SST2 amplifier, BP6 pre-amplifier and Rega Apollo CDP, it was time to see what these Dobermans could do. I began a session with something light, Sarah Harmer’s album “All of Our Names”. Sarah is a Canadian artist with a sweet and simple voice that complements her folk rock music. The song “Pendulums” brought forth an impression of the singer sitting just right of centre with a guitar strumming just fore of her voice. There was delicacy in the guitar, and cymbals were light, airy and smooth, with a taut kick drum. Her girlish and sweet voice was clear, with inflections easily heard. The bass guitar was defined and controlled. Skipping to track three, “Greeting Card Aisle”, the lead acoustic guitar that opens was brought forth with lifelike string detail. Finger plucking on the guitar strings and the natural resonances of the guitar body were easily perceptible. Gentle piano keys took their own space in a moderate sized soundstage, reflective of an intimate venue. An eerie synthesizer floated a little higher in the soundscape and Sarah’s voice came across as natural, though melancholy, befitting the song.

Next was Chris Botti’s album “To Love Again”. Chis had his start as Sting’s trumpeter and is now an accomplished top-selling jazz artist. The song “What Are You Doing With the Rest of Your Life” is sung by Sting. Here I was presented with a rather immense soundstage, both deep and wide. Sting’s voice was presented as distinctive, clear and authentic. The natural warmth in this recording came through just slightly lean of how I’m used to hearing it and the trumpet was put forth in a wonderful manner with great extension, and wonderful harmonics. It was nice to find the trumpet represented so smoothly, carrying no glare or harshness whatsoever. The reverb on the track was nicely apparent. Bells sounded crystalline, brushes on drums were very detailed and the conga drums sounded lifelike. Skipping to the last track “Smile”, Steven Tyler’s throaty voice was clearly identifiable. Bass on this track came across with depth but not as low as it is capable of being portrayed. The soundstage was expansive once again.

One of my favourite CDs for evaluation is, “La Bamba” by the O-Zone Percussion Group. This is an extremely well mastered disc and one of my references for transient response, timing, soundstage, dynamics and tonal accuracy. It contains creative percussion interpretations of some familiar jazz tunes. I jumped to track 10, “Jazz Variants”. Here again, the FS 247’s produced a nice layered soundstage with great instrument localization and placement. Instruments were brought across with their unique timbres allowing them to be easily identifiable. With bells, chimes, xylophone and vibraphone their harmonics and natural decay were brilliant, preserving their intrinsic qualities. Drums, tympani and cymbals had impressive immediacy and sustain, with skin reverberation and shimmer on symbols accurately portrayed. I found the 247’s only missed on the deepest notes and most impactful parts, which is understandable given their modest stature. On another track, “Minuano” the drum strikes were tight and precise and castanets were very realistic sounding.

I should mention that during my listening sessions, I experimented with the included bass control / port bung plugs in the upper rear ports. With the plugs out, bass sounded fuller and somewhat deeper but was less cohesive and the pace and tightness of bass notes were compromised. Hence, for all my critical listening, I kept the plugs in, with the speakers placed about 20 inches from the back wall. In addition, I did try the aforementioned ELAC Jet Dispersion Control (JET DC), a pair of bagel shaped foam rings. Mounted around the circumference of the tweeters using the provided clips, they slightly but noticeably tamed upper treble frequencies at the expense of some airiness, shimmer and liveliness. I’m sure they could benefit those with smaller and/or overly reactive rooms but I found they took some of the magic away, so I returned them to their packaging.

Without question, the most distinctive attribute of the FS 247’s is the JET III tweeter. The JET III sounds unique in comparison to traditional fabric / aluminum dome tweeters being more akin to what I’ve come to expect from exotic beryllium designs. The tweeter presents high-frequencies with great extension but also in an extremely smooth and natural manner. The JET III has a wonderful vivacity and buoyancy that I’d further characterize as velvety and wispy. Dispersion is exceptional, allowing centre flanking seating positions to sound just as good as dead centre, while filling the room in a natural manner. I did find that there was a little less of that perfect locked-in centre focus that some speakers provide but this I’d say is a small sacrifice, given the benefits. Completing this package are the very nicely matched mid-bass drivers that provide the agility needed to homogenously blend with the superb tweeter.

Overall, these Dobermans didn’t have the harsh bark that you sometimes find in lesser designs but rather the Elac FS 247’s showed themselves with poise, like pedigrees of their breed. If I had to characterize them in one sentence, I’d say that they are detailed and nimble truth-tellers that are well behaved and mannered. They are not the last word in lower midrange body, low bass extension or high impact nor would you ever describe them as full-bodied and forgiving but if you favour accuracy, transparency and transient response, delivered with lifelike finesse then the FS 247’s should be at the top of your list for an audition.

ELAC
www.elac.com
Distributed in Canada by ELAC Audio North America
www.elacaudio.com
(604) 542-0904

ELAC FS 247 Loudspeakers
Price: $3,450 CAD

Sony has announced that their much anticipated all-new BDP-S790 Blu-ray Disc player is available for consumer pre-order, as of Apr. 22, 2012.   Besides playing Blu-ray Disc, DVD and CD, the new BDP-S790 is a WiFi enabled device that supports digital services from Sony Entertainment Network and a variety of other providers.  The BDP-S790 also has built-in 4K upscaling and delivers superior playback quality from a number of other HD and SD sources, includeing 3D.

Key Features:
- Dual core processor for faster response
- 4K upscaling
- IP Content Noise Reduction
- Dual HDMI outputs
- IR input

Sony Entertainment Network
- Video Unlimited
- Music Unlimited
- Netflix
- Flixter
- VUDU
- Amazon Instant Video
- Slacker
- Pandora
- And many more Internet powered services

- Social media integration with Socialize, Twitter and Facebook
- Entertainment Database Browser with Gracenote technology
- DLNA Client and photo, music, and video playback
- HomeShare Network Speaker compatible
- Photo, music, and video playback via front USB
- “Media Remote” (iPhone/iPod touch/Android BD Remote Control application)

The Sony BDP-S790 is available for pre-order currently and expected to be available in stores by May 6, 2012.  The MSRP of this new flagship player is $249 U.S.  Look for more details at: www.store.sony.com.

 

NAD Electronics has announced availability of their new C 375DAC and C 356DAC.  These two new integrated amplifier models offer the company’s existing C 375BEE and C 356BEE with the plus of having NAD MDC DACs factory installed.

The NAD’s asynchronous 24/96 USB MDC DAC, incorporated within the NAD C 375BEE or C 356BEE (rated at 150 and 80-watt per channel respectively) are designed to provide increased performance over the integrated DAC’s within many source components e.g. CD player, PC / MAC, Squeezebox or Sonos system, when connected to the digital inputs or USB input of the C 375DAC or C 356 DAC.

The  C 375DAC delivers 150 watts per channel while the C 356DAC is rated at 80 watts per channel. NAD rates its receivers with a difficult 4-Ohm load, with both channels driven simultaneously, over the full frequency bandwidth (20Hz – 20kHz), and at rated distortion. This approach reflects real world conditions that the listener is likely to encounter with their system.

Both the C 375DAC and C 356DAC feature NAD’s legendary PowerDrive circuit that delivers very high dynamic power and low impedance drive capability to accurately control loudspeakers, resulting in a musically detailed, coherent, and relaxed sound.

In addition to the remarkable performance and value of built in DACs, these two top-rated NAD integrated amplifiers, feature the company’s unique, innovative — Modular Design Construction (MDC), making it easy to upgrade features and functionality. For owners that wish to add a phono module, the C 375DAC comes with a second slot for an optional inboard PP375 Phono Module. C 356DAC owners wishing phono preamp functionality may use an optional outboard PP 2i or PP 3i for the phono functions. The C 375DAC and C 356DAC offer a unique blend of performance, convenience and value.

Key Features of the NAD C 375DAC and C 356DAC:
• MDC DAC factory installed. Adds digital inputs Replaces DISC Input; select either OPTICAL or USB with slide switch
• Optical S/PDIF Input upgrades the sound of Disc Players or Music Streamers
• Flexible – Asynchronous USB device side input allows direct connection, PC or MAC
• USB compatible – supports 24/96 HD music playback
• High Performance – 24/192 DAC and high quality OPAmps for superior performance
• PowerDrive amplifier technology
• Modular Design Construction (MDC)
• Front panel Media Player (MP) input for attaching portable MP3 Player
• Custom compatible with RS-232 interface and 12 volt trigger output

Both the C 375DAC and C 356DAC are currently availaible at a MSRP of $1600 U.S. $900 U.S. respectively. Look for more details at: www.nadelectronics.com.

Pioneer Electronics has just added two new on-ear headband headphones to it’s stable of products – their flagship SE-MJ591 audiophile headphone and their SE-NC21M noise cancelling headphone.

The SE-MJ591 audiophile-grade headphone is designed for highly accurate sound reproduction across the entire spectrum, utilizing newly designed 40mm drivers and an on-ear design. The SE-MJ591 features high-quality construction with metal components and ultra-soft ear pads and headband for the ultimate comfort during longer listening periods. The objective is to meet the sound quality needs of high-end audio systems and audiophiles.

The SE-MJ591 headphones are a lightweight, fold up, compact design and include an attractive and durable protective carrying case for convenience and transportability.

The SE-NC21M is designed to reduce up to 90% (measured at 300 hz) of ambient noise, ideal for noisy environments such as airplanes and public places where constant background noise can interfere with music listening. The headphones feature lightweight construction for comfort during longer listening periods. Battery life is up to 120 hours of noise cancelation using a single AAA battery. The SE-NC21M will also continue to function as traditional headphones if the battery dies mid-use.

The SE-MJ591 headphones will be available in April at a MSRP of $299.00 U.S., while the SE-NC21M headphones will be available in May at a MSRP of $119.00 U.S. More details can be found at www.pioneerelectronics.com.

JOIN US & WIN GREAT PRIZES!

1,714FansLike
456FollowersFollow